Skip to content ↓

December 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Be a Coach, Not a Teacher

Robert Sawlor is an English professor at Soongsil University in Seoul, South Korea.  His teaching philosophy is purpose creates an efficient class environment, and students acquire language best through communicative learning.  Therefore, a syllabus and lesson plans are designed to maximize student learning through active participation.  Robert focuses on content design and has a website, www.EnglishSnippets.com with 45 free lessons for classroom use and a YouTube channel, Robbie English Teacher, which will contain over 500 micro lessons for English learners.

 

Introduction

Let's go back in time to when the world's top athletes were young. Sidney Crosby walks up to a hockey rink, Tiger Woods walks up to a golf club, Lionel Messi walks up to a football stadium, Jonah Lomu walks up to a rugby stadium and LeBron James walks up to a basketball stadium. Before entering, they are each told they must choose one of two doors. Behind each door are experts in each of their professions. Door 1 will undoubtedly lead them on to becoming the best in the world at their chosen sport. They will improve by practicing and be monitored so their weaknesses can be found and corrected. Door 2 will greatly improve their knowledge of their sport; however, it will severely restrict their chances of not only becoming the best, but on even becoming a professional athlete at all. They will improve by focusing on studying first and if there's time, they will practice what they learned.

ALL the young athletes, without hesitation, choose Door 1.

If I gave you two door titles, one says Coach and the other says Teacher, which door would you label Coach and which door would you label Teacher?

My point is this.  Think of your classroom as ice time (being Canadian, I am going to use hockey for the remainder of my article). Class time is a time for practice, it's not a time for the coach to lecture players. The best coaches know how to maximize ice time, thereby giving players as much practice time as possible.  You, as an English coach, must learn to use as much of class time as possible for practice and not for teaching.

Let's take a look at three ways on how you can structure your class as a coach instead of as a teacher.

Structured instructions, adding purpose and measuring results without a test (or motivating self-improvement without a test).

 

Structured instructions

What do I mean by Structured Instructions? Basically, you want to spend as little time explaining to your class on how to do an activity as possible.  Less time spent on explaining how to do an activity equals more time students have for doing an activity. When I used to play hockey, after week 2 of the season, our coach didn’t have to explain how to do and what was expected for each drill.  My coach would have foundation drills that players would learn during the first two weeks.  After the second week, my coach didn’t need to spend time explaining how to do a drill, he would simply give the name of the drill and all players would set up and start practicing the drill.  If my coach wanted to add a new skill or modify the drill, he would only need to explain the new skill or modification.  He would not have to waste time explaining everything again.

In the classroom, you should do the same.  For example, when I want to practice speaking in my class, I implement Structured Free Talking.  This means, students focus on answering the first question using a grammatically correct full sentence answer. Follow up questions are up to the student to create but I tell them to not focus on perfect grammar, but to try and ask a full question and answer with a full sentence.  Once students learn this style of speaking, I can then modify Structured Free Talking to match a grammar point or to use vocabulary from different units.  I don’t have to explain Structured Free Talking after week two, I just have to explain how students can practice a grammar point or vocabulary word while using the basis of Structured Free Talking.  Let’s take a look at an example:

 

Structured Free Talking

Focus

 

Focus

Purpose

STRUCTURED

Improve Grammatical Accuracy

-focus on a grammatically correct full sentence answer

-will point out grammar / sentence structure problems

(EX: word order, preposition use, etc.)

-will naturally carry over into Free Talking

FREE TALKING

Improve

Fluency

-don’t focus on perfect grammar

-focus on creating appropriate questions and answers by using/accessing prior knowledge

 

How it Works

 

Layout

Description

STRUCTURED

A: Question (Full Question)

Discuss a question from the unit.

B: Answer (Full Sentence)

Answer the question using a full, grammatically correct sentence.

FREE TALKING

A: Follow Up 1?

Create your own question

B: Answer + Detail

Answer follow up 1 + try to add some additional detail.

A: Follow Up 2?

Create your own question

B: Answer + Detail

Answer follow up 2 + try to add some additional detail.

 

Sample

 

Good Example

Poor Example

STRUCTURED

A: How long have you been studying English?

 

B: I have been studying in English for 10 years.

A: How long have you been studying English?

 

B: 10 years.

FREE TALKING

A: Why do you study English?

 

B: I study English because it will help me get a job.  Most companies want people who can speak English.

A: Why?

 

B: For a future job.

A: Which company do you want to work for?

 

B: I want to work for Samsung because they pay well and have a lot of other job benefits.

A: Which company?

 

B: Samsung.

Once students understand what I expect when I say ‘Structured Free Talking’, there is no need for me to explain it to them every class.  Also, if I want to highlight a new grammar rule and practice that rule through discussion, I can insert the rule into Structured Free Talking.  For Example, if I was teaching present perfect, I could emphasize that if your partner answers ‘Yes, I have ….’ to a question, then your follow up questions and answers should be in the past tense when asking details about that particular event.

 

Add purpose

Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. As a goalie, I had never been taught or did drills related to cutting off the angle. That is until I went to goalie camp. One thing our coach worked on everyday was cutting off the angle of shooters. I always thought it was the boring part of the day. That is, until on the 3rd day he saw my bored expression and said: "Robbie, do you know why cutting the angle is so important?" I said it may help a bit by making a few more saves, but that I thought my reflex and quick glove was more important. That’s when he stopped the drill and explained the 'purpose'. Once I understood the purpose, what was once a boring activity, became my favorite.  I realized how much it improved my skills. Don’t assume your students know the purpose of an activity. Tell them, or even better, ask them "What is the purpose of this activity?" and you may be surprised to find out what seems obvious is not so obvious.

Adding purpose to each activity will significantly enhance a student’s motivation. In my experience, doing an activity without purpose may cause a lot of students to mindlessly complete each activity thereby not acquiring what they are practicing.

Here is an example of how I add purpose to vocabulary activities.  I help students understand and acquire vocabulary in 4 ways.

 

New vocabulary review

Purpose: understanding vocabulary

Activity Directions: students work with a partner and use their native language, English, dictionary or thesaurus to discuss the meaning of each vocabulary. According to Jim Cummins, three inter-related assumptions regarding best practice in second/foreign language teaching and bilingual/immersion education continue to dominate classroom instruction. These assumptions are that: (a) the target language (TL) should be used exclusively for instructional purposes without recourse to students? first language (L1); (b) translation between L1 and TL has no place in the language classroom; and (c) within immersion and bilingual programs, the two languages should be kept rigidly separate. Research evidence provides minimal support for these assumptions and they are also inconsistent with the instructional implications of current theory in the areas of cognitive psychology and applied linguistics (Cummins, 2007). It’s important to let students understand the purpose of the vocabulary word.  I encourage students to use their native language.  There are 3 other activities designed to get students to ‘use’ vocabulary, so this activity doesn’t focus on using English.

Vocabulary/Expression

Definition or Translation

Vocabulary/Expression

Definition or Translation

1. Diet

 

11. Expend

 

2. Goal

 

12. Calories

 

3. Muscle mass

 

13. Design

 

4. Bulk diet

 

14. Meal plan

 

5. Body fat

 

15. High quality

 

6. Cut diet

 

16. Macro nutrients

 

7. Maintenance diet

 

17. Proteins

 

8. Reduce

 

18. Carbohydrates

 

9. Caloric intake

 

19. Fats

 

10. Equal

 

20. Breakdown

 

 

Back2Back reading

Purpose: to show students how vocabularies are used in the article or script for the lesson. Back2Back Reading is an adaptation of a cloze activity.  What does the cloze measure?  The cloze correlates highly with other measures of overall language proficiency, as well as with other tests of reading comprehension (Bachman, 1985).

Activity Directions: Students are paired and each pair gets the same article or script.  However, one student gets the A Paper and the other gets the B Paper. The sentences are all numbered.  Paper A is missing key words (including unit vocabulary) from even numbers.  Paper B is missing key words (including unit vocabulary) from odd numbers. Partner A reads number 1. Partner B listens and fills in the blanks.  Next, Partner B reads number 2. Partner A listens and fills in the blanks.

In my example below, you will notice vocabulary words, as well as others, are missing.  This will help students become aware of where and how vocabulary words are used in the article.

 

A - Back2Back reading

1. What do you think of when you hear the word diet? 

2. Most people think that __________ means __________ weight. 

3. However, assuming ‘to go on a diet’ means to lose weight is incorrect. 

4. A __________ is basically what you __________. 

5. Therefore, there are different types of diets depending on a person’s individual goal. 

6. If you want to __________ muscle mass, you will need to create a __________ diet. 

7. If you want to lose body fat, you will need to create a cut diet. 

8. Finally, if you want to __________ your weight, you will need to __________ a maintenance diet.

9. The goal of a cutting diet is to lose body fat.  Notice I said body fat and not weight. 

10. When cutting your __________ should be to keep muscle mass and __________ body fat. 

11. Therefore, your caloric intake needs to be less than the energy you need to go about your day. 

12. If you want to maintain your weight, your caloric __________ needs to equal the amount of energy you __________ each day. 

13. Once you know how many calories you should eat a day, you then need to design a meal plan that focuses on high quality macro nutrients. 

14. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are __________ nutrients and each meal should __________ of the following:

15. Cut & Maintenance Diet Breakdown:  40% protein       40% carbs       20% fats

16. Therefore, if I determine I need to eat _________ calories a day to reduce body fat, and I want to eat 5 meals a day (you _________ eat at least 4-6 meals a day), then each of my meals needs to be 400cal.*

 

B - Back2Back reading

1. What do you __________ of when you hear the word __________? 

2. Most people think that diet means losing weight. 

3. However, __________ ‘to go on a diet’ means to lose weight is __________. 

4. A diet is basically what you eat. 

5. Therefore, there are __________ types of diets depending on a person’s __________ goal. 

6. If you want to gain muscle mass, you will need to create a bulk diet. 

7. If you want to __________ body fat, you will need to create a __________ diet. 

8. Finally, if you want to maintain your weight, you will need to create a maintenance diet.

9. The goal of a cutting diet is to lose __________ fat.  Notice I said body fat and __________ weight. 

10. When cutting your goal should be to keep muscle mass and reduce body fat. 

11. Therefore, your ________ intake needs to be less than the ________ you need to go about your day. 

12. If you want to maintain your weight, your caloric intake needs to equal the amount of energy you expend each day. 

13. Once you know how many calories you __________ eat a day, you then need to design a meal plan that focuses on high __________ macro nutrients. 

14. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are macro nutrients and each meal should consist of the following:

15. Cut & Maintenance Diet Breakdown:  __________% protein        40% carbs     __________% fats

16. Therefore, if I determine I need to eat 2000 calories a day to reduce body fat, and I want to eat 5 meals a day (you should eat at least 4-6 meals a day), then each of my meals needs to be 400cal.*

 

Vocabulary speaking

Purpose: to use each vocabulary* through conversation. Students MUST use the vocabulary word from the question in their answer.  However, unlike my previous example regarding Structured Free Talking, I tell students to make full sentences, but not to focus on creating perfect grammatically correct answers.

The reason for not focusing on grammatically correct sentences is based on Krashen’s definition of monitor over-users.  Monitor Over-users. These are people who attempt to Monitor all the time, performers who are constantly checking their output with their conscious knowledge of the second language. As a result, such performers may speak hesitantly, often self-correct in the middle of utterances, and are so concerned with correctness that they cannot speak with any real fluency (Krashen, 1987). This allows students to build their own short narrative, as well as hear their partner’s answers, for each vocabulary.

According to the world's Memory Champion (Yanjaa Wintersoul, Netflix, The Mind Explained), her ability to remember massive amounts of numbers is by creating a small 1~2 sentence story around each number. Creating and remembering a short narrative, rather than just trying to memorize, makes it far more efficient to recall each number.

Activity Directions: Students are given a list of discussion questions.  Each question contains one of the vocabulary from the unit.  Students are paired and told to ask and answer each question with their partner.  Students must use the vocabulary in the answer.  They may also be asked to add one or two detail sentences to each answer.

In my example below, you will notice each question contains one vocabulary word.

Vocabulary Speaking – Food & Diet

Vocabulary

Discuss Questions

Write a full sentence answer + Detail

1. Diet

Have you ever been on a diet?

 

2. Goal

What is your goal for this class?

 

3. Muscle mass

Would you like to gain more muscle mass?

 

4. Bulk diet

What are the pros and cons of following a bulk diet?

 

5. Cut diet

What are the pros and cons of following a cut diet?

 

6.Maintenance diet

Have you ever been on a maintenance diet?

 

7. Reduce

What is a good way to reduce stress?

 

8. Equal

Do you think everyone in your country has an equal opportunity to succeed?

 

9. Expend

Do you expend a lot of energy at work?

 

10. Calories

Do you know what ‘empty’ calories are?

 

11. Design

Which building in your country has an interesting design?

 

12. Meal plan

Are you currently following a meal plan?

 

13. High quality

Does high quality education always lead to a successful life?

 

14. Proteins

What foods do you like that are high in protein?

 

15. Breakdown

Discuss the breakdown of your weekly schedule.

 

*Not all vocabulary is suitable for creating a discussion question.

 

Taboo vocabulary crossword

Purpose: A) to show students what they acquired from previous activities, B) to show students they have the ability to think organically, C) to point out any misunderstood vocabulary.

Activity Directions: to recall all the meanings and short narratives done previously, coupled with previous language knowledge they had acquired from their past, to help them describe each word to their partner.

Overall Purpose:

I also explain my overall purpose or goal of vocabulary activities. That is, to help students understand and acquire vocabulary without having to study or memorize.

 

Create team rapport

In sports, it’s not always the team with the greatest number of ‘best’ players that win championships. It’s the team that works together and not the team that works as individuals that come out on top.  A coach brings out the best in all players by building rapport.  A coach that can utilize a team’s best players to help enhance all players’ ability, will enjoy more success.  I learned that this holds true not only in sports, but also in the classroom.

When I was a university student, I studied business administration.  All second-year students were required to take Statistics. There were two professors teaching this class.  I soon came to realize that although the book and exams were identical for both professors, one professor focused on building team rapport and the other focused on lecturing.  I had the professor who taught statistics using a lecture based approach. After working hard in class but only receiving a B- on my midterm, I was a bit upset because math based subjects were always my highest scores.  That’s when I heard of the other statistics professor and decided to sit in on one of his classes.  That class changed my view on how all classes should be conducted.  It was student centered and the professor didn’t talk much at all until the last 15 minutes of the class, unlike my current professor who spoke for 80% of class time. 

So, how can a statistics professor speak so little in class, while producing much higher grades per student?  Basically, he would give a quick overview of a new equation.  He would put an equation on the board and ask the class to solve it.  He would monitor the class and when he would see one student had completed the equation correctly.  He would then pair students who successfully solved the equation with students having difficulty.  Once the second student completed the equation correctly, he would ask that student to in turn help another.  After most of the class had completed the equation, the professor and students would discuss the results.  At the end of class, we would review all the questions together.  What was surprising to me at the time was how many students felt comfortable asking questions.  With my current professor, whenever he asked ‘Are there any questions?’ 95% of the time no students would ask a question, or the same one or two students dominated the class by being the only ones who would ask questions.  However, with this professor, every student in the class had no hesitation to ask questions.  This professor had built amazing class rapport and it benefited all students.

How can you build rapport among your students?  One of the easiest ways is to implement activities that require students to have multiple partners or be part of different groups.  By having students paired with different partners, students quickly become more comfortable with one another, are more likely to ask questions and are more likely to participate in class review and discussion. Going back to Structured Free Talking, if I want students to discuss 10 questions for 15 minutes, I would pair students with 3 different partners and have them discuss 5 minutes with each partner.  By doing this, students meet multiple students in a relaxed setting.

In addition, it is important that you build teacher student rapport.  Students want to feel comfortable and confident enough to ask you questions.  One of the easiest ways to help accomplish this is by participating in some activities with the students.  One way I like to build teacher student rapport is after completing an activity like Structured Free Talking, as a class, is to have them ask me one of the questions from the activity.  One student is responsible for asking me a question from the activity and the other student is responsible for asking me a follow up question. 

Creating team rapport will have a big impact on a communicative learning environment.cum

To sum up, open Door 1 for your students.  View yourself as a coach and watch your students’ English skills grow.

 

References

Bachman, L. (1985). Performance on Cloze Tests with Fixed-Ratio and Rational Deletions. TESOL Quarterly19(3), 535. doi: 10.2307/3586277

Cummins, Jim. (2007). Rethinking Monolingual Instructional Strategies in Multilingual Classrooms. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics

Krashen, S. (1987). Principles and practice in second language acquisition /Stephen D. Krashen. New York: Prentice-Hall Internat.

The Mind, Explained. Directed by Vox, performance by Emma Stone, Vox Netflix, 2019. Netflix. www.netflix.com/kr-en/title/81098586.

 

Please check the How to Motivate Your Students course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the NLP and Coaching for the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Methodology and Language for Secondary course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

  • Role-Playing: Game-based Learning
    Michael Armstrong, South Korea

  • English Language Acquisition of a 6th Grade Korean Student: A Case Study
    Stephanie Ptak, South Korea

  • A New Take on Debate: A Five-Step Approach to Discussing Policy Debates
    Michael Heinz, USA

  • Be a Coach, Not a Teacher
    Robert Sawlor, Canada/ South Korea